Florida universities on Monday heralded their advancement in a national ranking of public universities, but none celebrated harder than the University of Florida after cracking the top five on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” for the first time.
The Florida school landed in fifth place, in a three-way tie with the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The annual grades lend prestige to schools that achieve top placement.
Appearing at UF Monday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis called it an “historic day” and said the university’s rise is good for the state.
“I am just proud of our state. I think we are doing a lot of stuff, across the board, well. A lot of people obviously want to come here, but to have a top five university really makes a difference,” DeSantis, flanked by state and university leaders, told reporters during a press conference Monday.
The school has risen nine spots on the chart since 2017, an ascension that has been “generations in the making,” University President Kent Fuchs said during Monday’s event.
“This remarkable milestone was achieved because of the shared commitment of the state of Florida and the University of Florida community, and the focused efforts of many who came before our time,” Fuchs said.
University of Florida student Roshawn Reid said the ranking bolsters the value of his and other students’ degrees.
“For students, I can tell you this means a lot. Our educational experience will be enhanced, our degrees will be even more valuable, it will open even more doors for us when we graduate and begin our job searches and it will create even greater opportunities for us throughout our careers,” Reid said during the university’s Monday press conference.
Florida State University, which in 2019 celebrated a jump to 18th in the annual ranking of public universities, held steady in 2022 after falling to No. 19 last year.
FSU President Richard McCullough, who took the helm in August, said in a video address Monday that remaining in the top 20 public universities is “a reflection of FSU’s academic excellence and our ongoing commitment to student success.”
Other Florida universities that ranked farther down on the annual list touted the rate at which the schools are advancing. The rankings are based on numerous factors, such as graduation rates, student retention, graduates’ debt and student-faculty ratio.
With a rank of 46, the University of South Florida billed itself as “America’s fastest-rising” university. The school has risen 48 spots on the U.S. News chart over the past decade.
“USF is proud to maintain its momentum as the fastest-rising university in America, public or private, over the last decade and a top 50 university,” USF Interim President Rhea Law said in a prepared statement Monday.
Continuing the trend of Florida schools climbing the ranks, the University of Central Florida clocked in at 67th among public universities. In a news release, UCF said its jump of 10 places puts it in a special group as “one of only three universities to improve its national ranking each of the last six years.”
Florida A&M University saw a marked increase in rank among public universities after assuming 2022’s No. 104 spot, which is the highest of the state’s historically Black colleges and universities.
“Moving up 13 places is a testament to our focus on student success and the dedication of our faculty, staff and students to the tenets of our strategic plan, FAMU Rising,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said in a statement.
Several Florida universities also received high marks in a category of rankings that recognizes schools that offer “social mobility” to students. U.S. News gauges universities’ success in “enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students” who receive need-based financial assistance to determine social-mobility rankings, according to its website.
Fort Lauderdale-based Keiser University, a private school, ranked fifth in the nation for universities promoting social mobility, with Florida International University coming in at No. 6 and Florida A&M University at No. 13.
“Keiser University is dedicated to providing access and opportunity to a diverse population of students and we’re pleased to include this goal in our commitment to student success,” University Chancellor Arthur Keiser said in a statement.
Syd Kitson, chairman of the State University System Board of Governors, said that Florida universities benefit from each others’ success.
“The 12 universities have really come together as a system. They make each other better working together, and that is exactly what they are doing,” Kitson said.
–Ryan Dailey, News Service of Florida